Model Airplane Finds Man Missing for 4 Months

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The Houston Chronicle reports last week that only when a small, radio-controlled airplane with on-board camera was called in was a West Texas man missing for 4 months finally located. Only 3 missions were required in one day by the model airplane during which about 200 aerial photographs were taken. Once considered a ‘big boy’s toy’, advances in technology are not only enabling these former playthings to be used for serious purposes but also make them more accessible for flying enthusiasts both young and not so young.

The Houston Chronicle reports last week that search parties on foot and horseback had scoured the desert around the West Texas town of Monahans for four months without finding any sign of David Lee Pettiet, who disappeared in June. Only when a small, radio-controlled airplane with on-board camera was called in was the missing man located. Only 3 missions were required in one day during which about 200 aerial photographs were taken. The man’s white trainers stood out as a minute speck in one of the photographs and drew the searchers to quickly locate him although he was surrounded by thick scrub brush.

The model aircraft that found the body was little different from the majority of radio controlled model airplanes used by hobby enthusiasts. A number of small model airplane products have been brought into use in recent years by the military and police services for service in places like Afghanistan and Iraq and increasingly for domestic services. The Los Angeles Police Department is currently trialing the ‘Skyseer’, a 4 lb(1.8kg) model complete with GPS system and video cameras.

Developments in modern materials, electric motors, battery life and electronic miniaturisation have benefited both the modelling community and government services. For the modelling community, an increasing range of clean, quiet, robust models are now within the reach of flying enthusiasts who are looking for no more than some peaceful amusement in the park. To cater for this growth of interest, “Model Airplane Secrets” is a new online resource for those interested in getting into the sport and hobby of model airplanes.

As author, Bruce Bird, put it; “A year ago I found myself with time on my hands and returned to a childhood fascination with model airplanes. Although the internet now makes it so much easier to find information I was struck by the degree of confusion and wondered how a young beginner would cope. So I converted my own research into a first ebook for beginners that can be delivered immediately by digital download.”

Established modeller and owner of website, Michael Cottier, remarks; "’Model Airplane Secrets’ is the perfect book for beginner RC pilot's and people trying to get back into the hobby. No technical jargon, just everything laid out for you very simply."

As author Bruce Bird explained; “Radio controlled model airplanes bring together the cutting edges of modern technology. They include aerospace design developments, the dramatic improvements in battery technology and the increasing miniaturisation of electronic components. All these make it easier for the beginner to start with a more robust, cleaner, quieter model. At the same time, more experienced modellers often prefer the challenge of recreating marvels of miniature engineering from their own skills. I’m hoping to develop a range of resources for all enthusiasts of the sport.”

You can find a review of the new book at Model Airplane Review and a FREE Tip Sheet at; 16 Questions and Answers on Getting Started in RC Model Airplanes.


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Bruce Bird
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